Survey: Will Apple’s Cross-Platform ‘Marzipan’ Project Actually Work?

Marzipan, the code name given to Apple’s cross-platform app project, was unveiled at WWDC 2018. With four unique iPad/Mac apps, Apple showed that the long-rumored project was indeed underway. But can Apple pull it off in a way that satisfies developers and users?

Its four re-written apps (News, Stocks, Voice Memos, and Home) were essentially the same binary builds, according to Apple, and equally capable of running on iOS and macOS. At the time, we noted two things:

Apple didn’t say as much, but its four revamped native apps show that it feels iPad apps are best suited for the desktop.

And:

The dual-framework method will use UIKit for heavy lifting, but AppKit to keep things desktop-friendly. AppKit will handle things like mouse clicks, menu bar and sidebar opacity, and window resizing.

So far, those two statements remain true. Ahead of WWDC 2018, rumors of a Marzipan API made the rounds, but we saw no public API actually made available. It’s possible we’ll see this API launch in 2019, which would almost certainly frame AppKit as an API for UIKit apps.

But we may also see an SDK! Bloomberg reports Apple is set to introduce an SDK that will allow developers to release an iPad and macOS app simultaneously.

Such rumors usually precede actual change; similar things happened with Apple’s move to 64-bit apps, a refreshed Mac App Store, and macOS app notarization. Reading the tea leaves, all signs point to cross-platform app ubiquity for Apple’s platforms by 2020 or 2021.

But we’ve seen this sort of thing before. Microsoft made a huge move towards cross-platform apps and services with Windows 8, which was available on phones and tablets as well as PCs. The differentiator: Microsoft was way behind on mobile by the time its Universal Windows Platform launched. Remember Projects Astoria and Islandwood? Those were Microsoft’s bold bets that iOS and Android developers would port their apps to Windows.

Both failed miserably.

Google is also poking around the cross-platform idea, and has Android apps up and running on ChromeOS devices. Sadly, most who’ve utilized Android apps on desktop report they’re just not very good.

But we want to know what you think! Is Apple slowly plodding a path to nowhere, or does it stand a chance for cross-platform success, given how it’s a front-runner for mobile? We’re still waiting for official news at WWDC 2019, but until then… tell us what you think in our anonymous survey below. We’ll be publishing the results in a future article, so stay tuned!